Most people would be familiar with the phrase “the customer is always right”. While anyone who runs a customer-facing business will appreciate this isn’t always true, nonetheless, it carries a deeper meaning to which all business owners should pay heed: ignore the customer at your peril.
When it comes to meeting the needs of customers, it’s probably not so much about right and wrong and more about the customer perception in a market that’s bursting with choice, new technology, and information. Today, successful businesses are likely to be those that best understand and meet the needs and demands of consumers in this modern and competitive environment. After all, if the customer perceives a poor experience according to their own rules of play, they will move on.
Customer-focus essentially refers to the collective effort by companies to meet or exceed the needs of their customers throughout their entire journey, from the moment of discovery through to delivery of the end product or service. And it’s an effort well spent. According to a study by Deloitte, customer focus can drive revenue growth and increased efficiency, among many other benefits. So, here are a few characteristics of truly customer-focused businesses.
Really know your market
They say knowledge is power, and this couldn’t be truer for the customer-focused business. The better a business knows its target customer, the more successful they’ll be in delivering products and services that really make a difference to their lives.
Specific market research initiatives such as surveys and focus groups could be an effective way to find out who your customers are and what they might be looking for from your products – today and in the future. But aside from formal research, the process of getting to know your customers should be ongoing and integrated into everything businesses do.
Online feedback forms through a business’ website could be a great way to get some candid insights, while customer service staff should embrace the opportunity to engage with customers and ask as many questions as possible. What’s more, closely monitoring sales figures, web traffic, and conversion rates are also valuable pieces of the puzzle when it comes to determining who your customers are and what they want.
Don’t shy away from action – be responsive
There’s no point in carrying out market research and asking customers probing questions via telephone or online feedback forms if you’re not prepared to seize an opportunity to act. Customer-focussed businesses will have robust systems and processes in place to ensure every insight gathered from customers is recorded, duly considered, and responded to quickly and efficiently. This could include anything from resolving a single customer complaint to identifying emerging trends in feedback which can be used to inform product enhancements, service improvements, or operational changes.
Never drop the ball
The customer experience should be viewed holistically; as one continuous journey from the moment a customer lands on your website to receiving and using products. This is because one bump in the road could easily give an overall bad impression, whether that be through a poorly designed website, unhelpful customer services, or inconvenient delivery options and faulty goods. For example, while retailers should have an appealing and functional website which makes browsing and purchasing completely painless, it’s wise to follow through with fast and convenient deliveries. And here’s one good reason why. Reports say 39 per cent of consumers are using social media to communicate feedback to a company.
Great places to work
There’s a general rule of thumb here; employees will treat customers as well as they are treated in the workplace, which means disengaged and unmotivated employees are unlikely to deliver the best customer experiences. That’s right, as Richard Branson once put it “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers”.
Customer focus starts by fostering a customer-centric culture within the organisation itself. By breaking down silos and encouraging different functional groups to work together towards the wider strategic vision, the result could be two-fold: Employees will experience increased motivation, engagement, and opportunity through stronger and more meaningful internal relationships, while the entire company is more united and proactive in its approach to serving customers’ needs. Indeed, loyal employees could lead to loyal customers.
Always go the extra mile
With so much competition in the market, customer-focused businesses recognise that good customer service simply isn’t good enough. In other words, while customers are unlikely to remember a seamless customer experience, they will remember an exceptional one.
Usually, customer service is perceived to be going the extra mile when the action on the part of business doesn’t directly relate to a sale and is above standard. Some examples could include frequent follow-up calls (which don’t involve an upsell), ongoing tech support, taking a cut in profits to offer free deliveries, or even offering gift cards and discounts in response to complaints. Any of these initiatives is likely to wow the customer or even turn a negative situation into a positive one.
Drive community engagement through social media
Customer-focussed businesses and brands don’t just rely on costly marketing campaigns to sell products, they let their customers do the talking for them. We’re talking about authentic, word-of-mouth marketing which is a powerful by-product of participating in and cultivating large social media communities.
Through social media, brands can raise their profile by contributing to relevant community discussions, or even stimulating new conversations through smart, quality content that drives traffic back to their website. This type of customer-generated and customer-endorsed content is no doubt considered more trustworthy, reliable, and memorable compared to traditional forms of marketing.
But there are other benefits too. Businesses that embrace the community effect through social media are also cultivating useful forums through which customers and clients can seek immediate answers to queries and concerns outside your customer service hours.